Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bonking versus Cracking

What the hell is Chip rambling about now right? Bear with me. In my two years of training to perform at the highest level to come in mid-pack in the 45+ category in the nations toughest region for cyclocross I consider myself an expert in these matters. Oh snap, see what I just did there? Never mind. Back to this supposed blog post. How can there possibly be a difference between Bonking and Cracking? Oh there is. Trust me on this. But I will do my best to explain it.

All kidding aside other than mountain biking the thing I suck at even more is endurance riding. Really of any kind. I am good for about 2 hours. After that its a disaster. But I like endurance riding. And like mountain biking a lot of my friends like to ride long distance. And there are some really cool rides you can do but they require some actual preparation. One would ask why do something you suck at? Well what if its something beautiful? What if there is beauty in the suffering? And not to get too heavy handed but the bonds you form on these rides are unlike any you will form on a bike. At least from my experience. Nothing and I mean nothing beats having a friend sing Jay-Z to you and hand you a crumbled old piece of coffee cake from their sweaty jersey pocket 6 hours into a 9-hour suffer fest.

So let's get started. To break it down as simply as possible, Bonking is when your body depletes its glycogen at about say hour 2 and you feel all tired and want to puke. It looks like this Bolt video. I am not going to google this and fact check it. I am not a scientist. I went to art school m'kay? Trust me that is how it works. But maybe you don't believe in Science. Okay that is cool. I guess its like how some people don't believe in a God or something. But the difference is if you don't believe in science and therefore decide your body doesn't need fuel to keep going after hour two real consequences will be unleashed upon you. Unlike say if you don't believe in any God, whether it be the little baby jesus in the gold lame diaper, one-eyed Odin or Shiva the Destroyer. Contrary to popular belief nothing bad will happen to you if you don't actually believe in any of the above. Even though I saw a sign not a week ago in front of a Church telling me different.

So then what is Cracking? Cracking is when either a.) the bad men (or women) have upped the pace so hard that you can't go any hahder. And you "Crack" aka can't tell your legs to "Shut Up" and keep pedaling harder. In a sense it is weakness. But its not always a "mental" weakness. You may have forgot to do squats all winter. Or maybe you just didn't ride your bike and ate bon bons all Spring instead of put on a rain cape and got your sorry ass in shape.

Cracking can also be your body literally breaking down. Again it can be a product of not enough training. Or it can be a product of too much training or an improper fit on the bike. Or again that you are just soft and weak and need to tell your back to shut up because the bad men are not letting up on the hills....

Ok so let's try and work Bonking into a sentence so you can see how to use the word with your cycling pals so they can better understand why you are unraveling on the team ride in April when you said you were "super fit" and totally stoked to hammer and contest townline sprints. So let's say at about hour two you are feeling not so fresh. Maybe a little light headed. I have been so bonked out of my head climbing Mt Tam that I literally started talking to the ground squirrels. "Hi Mr. Squirrel I am bonking so hard I can't even see straight could I please have one of your nuts?" "Nice Squirrely do you have any water?" I mean thank god my "friends" were already up at the Ranger Station drinking their Accelerade and eating all the clif bars. Who needs to actually be able to make rational decisions when you are descending off a switchbacked mtn at 35 mph? I survived. Barely. All I can say is thank God for Mill Valley!

Ok so how about we try it with Cracked. Last year on the Ride On Washington I got up close and personal with "Cracked" What the hell was I thinking going on this death march? I mean seriously. I had about 1 long ride before going into it. I was fat. Well fatter than usual. And out of shape. Remember last winter? Yeah 70 inches of snow does not really translate for a great base building scenario. Ok so fine I am fat and not in cycling shape. Why not go on a two-day "ride" to NYC? This is where at least I saved myself by using my smarts. My trump card? I brought the Hup team car and the worlds best driver. He saved my ass. Literally. More on that later. Ok so let's use it in a sentence now that we have set the stage. I believe if I remember correctly we were at about hour 6? We left Boston in 7 degree weather. It was probably 35 at this point. We had already lost our support vehicles and were hitting some heavy hills. I thought this was going to be all downhill. I guess I should have looked at a topo map. Have I mentioned I am not a climber? Anyway. I feel ok. Timmy and the boys steered me away from all the junk food in the gas station we stopped at and I made "smart" choices.

The gas station was my first chance to talk to this "Chandler" fellow. Nice enough guy. And I almost took a sip of the tall Starbucks frapucinno he offered me. Til Fries looked at me and shook his head "no" Ok so about an hour out from the rest stop we have hit some horrible climbs. I can barely pedal. Why lie I don't have to because Lyne Bessette is pushing me up them. So sad. Then we here word that Chandler has cracked on one of the hills. Apparently he hasn't been riding either. And for some reason Lyne is not pushing him up the hills. He asks to get in the team car. They don't let him in. But he soldiers on and rejoins. He does this at least two or three times before we reach Hartford. I blame the frapucinno.

Ok so now on to what really matters. Both have similar outcomes. And both have similar remedies but the challenge is can you bounce back. Like I said Chandler cracked hard at least 2-3 times. But then was contesting townline sprints on the way to NYC on the longest stage of the ride. How does that work? Well Chan is a machine. He actually has talent and is an actual bike racer. I am a hobbyist. So he can tap into years of cracking and bounce back. Your average rider it gets a bit dicey.

First and foremost. Hydration. But if its over two hours you need food. And you need to do it on a regular basis. One of the coolest rides we do is the Rapha Gentleman's Ride. I learned from Rosey and Murat just how to take care of yourself. Again with the right food and hydration even a schmuck like me can fake it a bit. One thing I have found that is a miracle worked is Endurolyte caps. Rosey had them in a zip loc baggie at the RGR in CT. We actually dropped them at one point. A Geekhouse rider found them and then returned them to us. It was pretty hilarious actually. Here Hup here is your bag of drugs! I was popping those like crazy. And never cramped or cracked.

Sometimes people don't even know they are bonking or about to crack. If you ride with friends enough you start to see tell tale signs. Obviously people go silent. But sometimes they become total chatter boxes. A good sign you are about to bonk is that you start obsessing about food. The other day when I was riding all I could think about was mac n cheese. It literally was pulling me home for an hour like a tractor beam. Sadly when I got home there wasn't any mac n cheese to be found. But it did its job. When we do the RGR now we have one rider set the schedule for eating. And then that person asks each rider if they have eaten. If they say they aren't "hungry" we force them to eat. The problem with bonking is by the time you are actually hungry its almost too late. As Chan proved with his crack you can dig yourself out but its not always pretty.

And if its cracking and involves cramps its going to be a painful process trust me. I had such bad cramps the year I did Battenkill I thought my IT band was going to rip out of my legs. But I kept pedaling. If you stop you are screwed. Seriously. Never, ever stop.

The point of all this? The Ronde is in 6 weeks. It is long. It is hard. Who knows what the conditions will be that day. We will have an aid station sponsored by Hammer Nutrition but be prepared. Team Camelstache has its name for a reason. A camelback holds 70 oz of liquid 2 water bottles hold 42. And again, Gel packs, real food like bananas, fig newtons, bars are key. I would get endurolytes both to ward of cramps and as a "break glass in case of emergency" situation develops on your team. Get the miles in as well. Nothing saves you more from cracking than actually having miles in your legs. Ride and ride lots.

1 comment:

  1. all that eating and drinking - pfft way over rated.